The alpaca (Vicugna pacos) is a domesticated species of South American camelid. Alpacas are similar to llamas, and are often confused with them. The two animals are closely related, and can successfully cross-breed. They are also closely related to the vicuña, which is believed to be the alpaca's wild ancestor, and to the guanaco.
Alpacas are kept in herds that graze on the level heights of the Andes of southern Peru, western Bolivia, Ecuador, and northern Chile at an altitude of 3,500 m (11,500 ft) to 5,000 m (16,000 ft) above sea level, throughout the year. Alpacas are considerably smaller than llamas, and unlike llamas, they were not bred to be beasts of burden, but were bred specifically for their fiber. Alpaca fiber is used for making knitted and woven items, similar to wool. These items include blankets, sweaters, hats, gloves, scarves, a wide variety of textiles and ponchos in South America, and sweaters, socks, coats and bedding in other parts of the world. The fiber comes in more than 52 natural colors as classified in Peru, 12 as classified in Australia and 16 as classified in the United States.
Alpacas have several different components to how they behave. They depend on their body communication to get their point across when they are threatened or happy. They spit when they are in distress, fearful, or to show dominance. Male alpacas tend to behave more aggressively than females, and they try to establish dominance of their herd group.
In the textile industry, "alpaca" primarily refers to the hair of Peruvian alpacas, but more broadly it refers to a style of fabric originally made from alpaca hair, but now often made from similar fibers, such as mohair, Icelandic sheep wool, or even high-quality wool. In trade, distinctions are made between alpacas and the several styles of mohair and luster.
An adult alpaca generally is between 81–99 centimetres (32–39 in) in height at the shoulders (withers). They usually weigh 48–84 kilograms (106–185 lb).
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